Trump attacks No. 2 Senate Republican as the President turns on allies in his final days in office
Posted January 1, 2021 2:54 p.m. EST
CNN — President Donald Trump is spending his final days in office attacking leadership within his own party, this time the second-highest ranking Republican in the Senate, offering a possible preview of his broader post-presidential strategy to use his influence in the 2022 midterm elections and beyond.
Trump, back at the White House after his Mar-a-Lago holiday with no public events on his schedule, attacked Sen. John Thune, a South Dakotan who is the No. 2 Senate Republican, in an afternoon tweet on New Year's Day.
"I hope to see the great Governor of South Dakota @KristiNoem, run against RINO @SenJohnThune, in the upcoming 2022 Primary. She would do a fantastic job in the U.S. Senate, but if not Kristi, others are already lining up. South Dakota wants strong leadership, NOW!" he wrote in a tweet.
Trump has railed against Republican leadership broadly multiple times this week, but this time is naming names. Thune, the Senate majority whip, had been one of the top Republicans to speak in favor of accepting the Electoral College results and President-elect Joe Biden's victory, drawing Trump's ire.
"Once somebody gets 270, I understand they're ruling right now, but I think that's the process we have, yes. ... In the end at some point you have to face the music. And I think once the Electoral College settles the issue today, it's time for everybody to move on," Thune said ahead of the formal electoral college voting process last month.
Trump's tweet comes just 19 days before he leaves the White House and days before a joint session of Congress is set to formally certify the Electoral College results, with some Trump allies planning to join his baseless efforts to overturn the results of the election.
The President returned to Washington ahead of the January 6 event, when as many as 140 House Republicans, joined by at least one senator, Missouri Republican Josh Hawley, could vote to throw out electoral votes in key swing states Trump lost. Trump praised Hawley in a tweet Thursday evening.
It also comes as Trump is already beginning to preview how he'll spend his post-presidency. In recent days, he has suggested Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who he had endorsed and had been a loyal Trump ally until the November vote, resign because he would not help overturn Biden's win in that state. He has also repeatedly attacked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger, another Republican who he had endorsed during the 2018 midterms.
The President has raised hundreds of millions of dollars since the November 3 election, a majority of which goes directly to a new fundraising leadership PAC, Save America, that is expected to aide him in donating to other candidates and political pursuits as he considers a potential presidential bid in 2024.
With this tweet, Trump is already planting the idea that he would support candidates offering primary challenges to current House and Senate Republicans he sees as disloyal.
For her part, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a top Trump ally, said last week that she would not pursue the Senate seat.
"@johnthune is a friend of mine, and I will not be challenging him. I'm honored to be Governor of South Dakota and will ask the people to give me an opportunity to continue serving them as Governor in 2022," she wrote.